In January of 2015, five Pueblo artists, Erik Fender (San Ildefonso), Elizabeth Medina (Zia), Frederica Antonio (Acoma), Patricia Lowden (Acoma), and Robin Teller (Isleta) created one-of-a-kind “Starbucks-style” clay mugs for the the Starbucks at Avanyu Plaza for its grand opening. Requests for the Starbucks Pueblo coffee mugs were so high, they decided to create replica-style mugs and sales have been amazing ever since.
Ira Wilson, lead buyer for the Indian Pueblo cultural center, says the idea for the Starbucks Pueblo coffee mugs started with a conversation in when one of the workers had a Starbucks cup. “He mentioned it would be cool to have ‘Indian designs’ on it.”
Initially, the the Starbucks Pueblo coffee mugs were pieces of art behind glass and not for sale. But so many people asked if they could buy them, the store decided to make a version of the Starbucks Pueblo coffee mugs available for sale. They also wanted to ensure a portion of the sale would go to the artists.
Wilson said the next step was to manufacture them. “We had to get artists’ permission, licensing, et cetera. We wanted to make sure we were taking care of our artists financially so it benefitted them.”
At first, the IPCC was only able to have the the Starbucks Pueblo coffee mugs manufactured with a polycarbonate-style tumbler with a lid. They have since found a way to have them made with ceramic and now offer both styles in the store and online.
Once the mugs were available, the public couldn’t get enough. “The success was nothing that we planned for,” said Wilson. “There was a line out the door at Christmas time. We ran out of mugs. It turned out to be a huge success for us.”
“You can go to New York City with this thing and people are like, Where did you get that? That’s beautiful. People love it,” said Wilson.
“We try to make art cool again,” says Wilson. “Millennials, you’ve got a phone in one hand and a Starbucks latte cup in the other, always. The kids are now interested in saying, ‘ I’m from Acoma, this is me, this is my tribe, this is something I can take everywhere and have my culture with me.’ “
The IPCC’s goal is to have traditional artwork from all 19 Pueblos represented on the Starbucks Pueblo coffee mugs. The mugs are shipping worldwide, including to Japan, Germany, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina.
Wilson sums it up, “It’s portable Pueblo culture.